I Am Voting for Bernie Sanders Because I am A Feminist

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Sanders speaking at Democratic Women's Leadership Forum

By Rachel Elfenbein 

I am voting for Bernie Sanders and I am a feminist. Since my mother first told me as a child about her many struggles to become educated and enter her profession, I have been a feminist. Her struggles and the struggles of the many women who have come before me have inspired my feminist activism and solidarity. It was these early stories and my own experiences of gender-based oppression as a growing young woman that spurred me to become politically educated and involved. The third wave of feminism was instrumental to my political education, as it taught me about how different women experience sexism differently because of the intersection of their gender with their race, class, and sexuality.

Third wave feminism also taught me how feminism is and should be for everyone. Just as racism isn’t only the problem of people of color and its eradication requires white people to change their beliefs and behavior, sexism isn’t just a women’s issue and the end to sexism requires real commitments by men to treat women equally. Sexism is a problem of masculine domination, and its eradication therefore necessarily requires men not to exercise their power and control over women but to ally themselves with the social, political, and economic interests of women. We do feminism a serious disservice if we believe only women can be feminists, as that is tantamount to arguing that women- the victims of gender-based oppression- are responsible for changing their oppressors and ending their own oppression.  

My feminist political education has led me to act in solidarity with women and men of all races to end gender-based violence. When I recently worked as a domestic violence counselor in the poorest large city in America, I spoke day in and day out to women who suffered from gender-based violence, poverty, and lack of police and legal protection, women who were forced to choose between staying with their abusers and being out on the streets with their kids. Because our government and our economy neglected their needs, many of these women were stuck dealing with interpersonal and structural violence, just trying to find solutions for their immediate everyday survival. I spoke to women who had fled their situations of violence only to end up living in temporary public shelters with their children, because after paying for childcare, their minimum wage jobs did not pay them enough to put roofs over theirs and their children’s heads. I spoke to many more women who could not even access shelters to escape their abusive situations because almost every day the shelters for women and children in the city were full. Because the violence at home was so dangerous, some of these women chose to risk sleeping in public parks, transit stations, and emergency rooms. But more of the women I spoke to who could not access public shelter chose to stay with their abusers because their only income was public assistance (food stamps and/or income assistance) and that public assistance was far too little for them to be able to survive financially on their own and with their children under their care. The absolutely brutal irony of their stories of everyday poverty and violence were that they occurred in the richest country in the world and were in part caused by the regressive welfare reforms enacted in the 1990s by the Democratic government led by Bill Clinton.

I am voting for Bernie because he does not believe the establishment Democratic Party approach of incremental policy changes will be sufficient to end such everyday tragedies that women and their children experience at the intersection of interpersonal and structural violence. Rather, he believes we need to rein in the power and the money of the capitalist class so that our government can move toward ensuring the wellbeing of all in our country. Bernie is fighting to expand public programs and services for the poor and working class, the majority of whom are women. As a feminist, I am voting for Bernie because his support for a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, public health insurance for all, universal childcare and pre-K, and the expansion of social security, violence against women services, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program is a progressive stand for women and our children. I am voting for Bernie because, while he doesn’t believe the government should intervene in women’s reproductive choices and control our bodies, he does believe that the government should intervene in the economy to support women’s welfare and the welfare of all.

As women, we confront many struggles at once because sexism is multi-faceted and intersects with our different experiences of exploitation, racism, and heterosexism. We do need to break that proverbial glass ceiling and put women into leadership positions in our society. But that is not enough to create a more just society for all women, nor does it guarantee that those in power will represent the interests of poor and working class women. Even when we have more women at the top, the majority of women will continue to remain at the bottom of our capitalist economy because they do most of the necessary caregiving work of children, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly—work that is unpaid or underpaid. Some feminists have called this side of our society that falls far below the glass ceiling the “sticky floor” because of how our economy tends to keep women in the lowest paid and most precarious positions. As a nation, we need public policies that work to raise up that floor, that raise the basic standard of living so that not just a few women get ahead but all women can live in dignity. It is because of my belief in this kind of feminism that I am voting for Bernie Sanders, as his political record and presidential campaign stand for such visionary progressive policies.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.